BZBI, where you belong

Professional Staff

    Lynne Balaban, Executive Director

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    Lynne has more than 30 years of experience in nonprofit management. As a seasoned Executive Director she has held leadership roles in synagogues, JCC’s and other non-profits in South Florida, Atlanta, Philadelphia, Providence, Los Angeles and Columbus. She most recently served as the Executive Director of B’nai Aviv in Weston, Florida. Prior to that she was the Executive Director of Congregation Or VeShalom in Atlanta, Georgia.

    A Pennsylvania native, Lynne holds a Bachelor’s Degree from the University of Delaware and a Masters Degree from Gratz College. Lynne has a breadth of program development and strategic planning experience coupled with a passion for Jewish education. She supports and believes in Tikkun Olam and the importance of developing employees and volunteers.  She is dedicated to building inspired and productive relationships with our members and the community, including you!

    As an active member of NAASE (the North American Association of Synagogue Executives), she currently serves on their board as Membership Co-Chair and Welcoming Chair. She is also on the Philadelphia Jewish Federation Women’s Philanthropy Board and a member of the Development Committee for Hillel at the University of Delaware.

    Lynne notes, “BZBI is a synagogue with a proud past and an even more promising future, and I look forward to being a part of it.”

    Julia Pollock, Communications Coordinator

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    Julia Pollock is BZBI’s new Communication Coordinator. Originally from the suburbs of Philadelphia, Julia has been able to pursue her passion for people as a Public Relations major at Temple University. Julia has worked in both event planning and social media content creation with hopes to bring a fresh perspective to the communication realm at BZBI. Her dedication to continuous learning will shine through as she begins this new path in life, celebrating both non-profit work and becoming a part of the Philadelphia Jewish community. As this new chapter unfolds, Julia strives to provide open communication to all members of the congregation and a positive presence at BZBI.


    Liat Kovnator, Director of Membership Engagement and Outreach

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    Liat is a performer, producer, and arts educator whose passion lies in cultivating spaces that support creative and philanthropic endeavors. Originally from Southern California, she ventured to the east coast where she graduated with a BFA in Musical Theater from The University of the Arts. Since then, she has performed in various productions throughout the tri-state area. When she isn’t performing, she loves teaching voice and theatre to kids, and producing music-based events for her theater company Chickadee Theatre, with her friends. Liat is excited to return to BZBI after teaching in our preschool from 2018 to 2019, as it will give her the opportunity to collaborate with others in the Jewish community, and have a safe space to create original events that are meaningful.

    Phyllis Kramer, Temple Administrator

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    Phyllis Kramer is our Office Manager and longest-serving employee. Phyllis is the face that greets you as you come into the office, and the person most likely to know who you are and how you are connected to BZBI. She has her guiding hand on our events, programs, kiddushes, congregational announcements, and life-cycle events. Little happens smoothly without Phyllis’ care and attention to detail. She is a proud mom and grandmother.

    Leslee Schwartz, Accounts Specialist

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    Leslee Schwartz is our Financial Account Specialist addressing the day-to-day financial transactions for our members and vendors. She works closely with the treasurer and finance committee to help insure the accuracy of our financial statements. She is the go-to person for questions about your account and can easily update any information in your synagogue files. Leslee manages employee benefits and payroll for BZBI. She is a Center City resident and a former school teacher who has taught part-time in our religious school.

    Shayna Flink, Torah Academy Coordinator

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    Shayna Flink is the coordinator of BZBI’s first Torah Academy where congregants learn to read Torah. She also works at Perelman Jewish Day School where she plans and implements family programs, as well as consults with the admissions team. Shayna has been tutoring Bnai Mitzvah students at BZBI for the last 5 years, and it brings her immense joy to teach others the skills of reading Torah and leading services. Shayna has a Master’s Degree in Special and General Education from Bank Street College, and was working as a learning specialist at Perelman Jewish Day School prior to having her twins, Zev and Ruth, both of whom currently attend (and love) BZBI’s preschool.

    Miriam Leisman Rubin, Torah Reading Coordinator

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    Miriam is a second year student at The Rabbinical School of The Jewish Theological Seminary. Prior to entering the seminary, she served on the leadership team of Breakthrough of Greater Philadelphia.  An experienced educator with a background in both information technology and curriculum development, Miriam has more than a decade of experience as an educator and almost two decades in the workforce.  As a teacher, Miriam worked with middle and high school students in the Philadelphia area. As a rabbinical student, she seeks to leverage her diverse skills and experiences to impact the Jewish community, sharing her unique perspective on integrating Torah learning with organization and community best practices.  During the academic year, from erev Thursday through Sunday, she lives in Penn Valley with her husband, Daniel, and three cats and from erev Sunday through Thursday, she lives near the seminary in New York City.


    Sara Dasher Goldfuss, Director of Early Childhood Education

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    Sara is a passionate Early Childhood Educator with years of experience teaching young children and coaching parents and fellow educators. She has taught at Germantown Jewish Centre and Temple Beth Hillel-Beth El, was a Tribe 12 Fellow in 2015, and an administrator at Society Hill Synagogue before joining BZBI in January of 2020. Sara, her husband Jamie, and their 4 children Izzy, Yaffa, Toby, and Adar are all proud Philly natives.

    Melanie Fine, Early Childhood Education Programs Coordinator

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    Melanie Fine previously worked as an assistant teacher in our Early Childhood program, and she is thrilled to transition from her role in the classroom to a role as an administrator. Melanie graduated from the University of Delaware in 2018 with a degree in Interpersonal Communication. Prior to starting her career in Early Childhood Education, Melanie worked as an administrator for a restaurant in Philadelphia assisting with marketing and event planning. Melanie is so excited to continue working with children while supporting the BZBI community as an administrator.

    Rabbi Max Nissen, Director of Youth and Family Education

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    Rabbi Max Nissen joined our staff in July 2019 as our Religious School and Youth and Family Services Director. Rabbi Max comes to BZBI from Congregation Beth El (Bethesda, MD), where he served as the Assistant Education Director and head of the Upper School. He also served as the rabbinic intern at the Park Slope Jewish Center (Brooklyn, New York) and as the rabbinic leader of Fitzgerald Hebrew Congregation (Fitzgerald, GA). He believes in empowering his students and their families, partnering with them to create meaningful Jewish experiences that create community, foster personal growth, and contribute to a better world.

    Larry Kaplan, Teen Program Coordinator

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    I am a lifelong Philadelphian and a graduate of Central, Temple and the University of Pennsylvania. I Have a Masters of Education and taught in Philly and the surrounding suburbs for many years. I have run youth programs at various synagogues for even longer. When not teaching, I have owned a number of business including dessert shops and the award winning Varsity Fitness, where I trained professional athletes from around the world. I love to travel and explore and have some very interesting stories to share. I can’t wait to hear all of your stories too!

    I’m excited to be working at BZBI and combining my passions of education, mentoring, inspiring, and of course, Philly. I look forward to all of the amazing relationships that will be developed over the coming years. My goals for the teen programs at BZBI are to give you, the teens, ownership of your own programs. Accordingly, I will meet with you and the teen leaders often to make sure our programming is exactly what you want. I promise to help make the programming fun, meaningful and educational.  Please reach out to me with any questions or just to say hi, and make sure you’re following BZBI Youth on Instagram @BZBI.USY. Looking forward to working together!


    Joel Chew, Maintenance Lead


    Joel Chew is the lead person in our Maintenance Department and is charged with the general maintenance of the building, facilitating set-ups for classes, meetings and services, and ensuring that the building is accommodating to our congregants and visitors. He is the person who makes sure it’s cool in the summer and warm in the winter. Joel has been on staff for 11 years and helps make BZBI the welcoming place it is.

    Brian Johnson, Senior Maintenance Expert


    Brian Johnson is our senior maintenance person. Brian has worked for BZBI for 12 years and is an expert on the facility and the nuances of our classrooms and meeting spaces. He makes sure the building is prepared for the next day’s programs and ensures its cleanliness each evening. He secures the building at the end of each day and is the smiling face that wishes those here late in the day a good evening.